Having been in New Zealand for a year, Kirsty and I managed to convince a couple of friends to make the trip over from Scotland so we could do a South Island roadtrip in campervans.
The idea was to meet in Hanmer Springs and drive over Arthur's Pass, down the West Coast, into Central Otago, stopping at Mount Cook and finishing in Christchurch. A loop of hopefully good weather, bike riding and stunning scenes!
Christhcurch to Christchurch
Best Time of the Year
all year round
- Arthur's Pass
- Mount Cook
- Hanmer Springs
- Otira Viaduct
Hanmer Springs to Arthur's pass
Distance 260km - Driving Time 3 hours
From Hanmer Springs we headed towards Arthur’s Pass (plenty of good pie shops to stop at) to ride some trails. A full day of riding was had with 3,500 feet of climbing and great single track through the bush. Thankfully we took the correct trail and we popped out right back at the camper. A quick jaunt over to see the boulders at Castle Hill and then we made camp at Lake Pearson.
Distance 132km - Driving Time 3 hours
The next morning, with the sun shining, we carried on through the pass and were entertained by a kea while taking in the surrounding views around the Otira Viaduct. Of course, when we hit the west coast the heavens decided to open up on us and we all realised why the coast was lined with thick, luscious rainforest. With green surrounding us, the wild turquoise color of Hokitika Gorge added to the beauty of the landscape. Unfortunately, this was also the place where the sandflies introduced themselves to us. And they were pretty hungry!
Franz Joseph Glacier
Distance 160km - Driving Time 2 hours
Enjoying the long drive down the west, we stopped over for the night in Franz Josef and hoped that the weather would change for a morning walk to view the Franz Josef Glacier. Thankfully the cloud lifted enough for us to take in the fantastic views on a hike to the glacier.
Then we headed further south, stopping for pies and sightseeing along the way, including a stop in at the incredible blue pools just north of Wanaka, where we skimmed some stones and tried to avoid more sandflies that were in need of lunch.
Queenstown to Milford Sound
Distance 350km - Driving Time 4 hours 30 mins
Our arrival to Wanaka was just in time for a short ride around Sticky Forest before having dinner by the lake. That night was Guy Fawkes night, so we then set up on the lakefront, watching locals shoot of fireworks from their backyards and along the lakeside. We didn’t trust ourselves with fireworks so we got hold of some sparklers instead. The next plan was to head for Queenstown, which changed after agreeing that our friends can’t come to New Zealand without seeing Milford Sound. We made it a day trip, which was 10 hours of driving but worth it to catch the boat for a cruise. With this being mine and Kirsty’s third trip to Milford Sound, it was just as mind-blowing as the first time, and some penguins and seals even popped out to say hello!
Once we made it back to Queenstown we turned to the bikes and hit up Wynyard for a sunset dirt jump session. The next day we planned to rent big bikes to ride Skyline. After a full day of riding, we made our way up the middle of Otago the next day and head for Mt Cook.
This included stopping by the magnificent Clay Cliffs for some lunchtime exploring. That night we camped at mine and Kirsty’s favourite NZ camp spot - on the edge of Lake Pukaki, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and luckily a clear night meant we could enjoy a view of New Zealand’s highest mountain.
Distance 480km - Driving Time 6 hours
As we carried on towards Christchurch we stopped in at Lake Tekapo for yet more pies, and more skimming stones across the glassy water. For the final night we ended the trip in Arundel with some stories of the trip, BBQ and beers shared with some locals camping near to us.
All photographs by Johny Cook.